Probably not as well known as Workers’ Day, but, thanks to groups on Facebook, today marks an important stage in the campaign to rid Spain of the cruel treatment meted out to hunting dogs. Not just podencos and galgos, but also bodegueros, pointers, setters and other breeds.
Families – and their dogs – are marching in London, Manchester and Glasgow to call attention to the plight of these abused and abandoned dogs. In London, they will hand in protest letters and a photocard petition to the Spanish Embassy.
These marches follow one in Paris on 23 April, and one in Gettysburg, USA, on 28 April. More are planned for summer.
Actress, author and activist Joanna Lumley has given her support to the campaign:
‘The appalling treatment of Spanish Hunting Dogs strikes a chill to the heart; it is impossible to believe that a country as sophisticated and fine as Spain could tolerate such unforgivable cruelty to living creatures. I add my name to the many who are calling for this inhumanity to be stopped once and for all.’ – Joanna Lumley OBE.
The protest has been organised by the Podenco Alliance and Podenco Support South West. I never thought I would have anything good to say about Facebook but … it gets results. Much as I loathe it.
Originally scheduled to coincide with the planned visit of Fel and Leti (king and queen of Spain) to the UK, it was postponed when they cancelled their visit. Presumably because they didn’t want the embarrassing scenario of protesting podencos and their people pointing out how disgracefully Spain treats their hunting dogs. Although what else would one expect from a country that loves bullfighting? And, I might point out, there is a prestigious annual trophy for the best performing galgo, no less than the Copa Su Majestad El Rey. Yes, the King’s Cup. They could start by getting rid of that.
This is the country that rewards the good hunting dogs by hanging them from the higher branches of a tree. Thoughtful huh? The poor hunters get hung lower down where they can just touch the ground and so take longer to die. It’s not enough to kill them. Why not make them suffer too? Fucking sadists. Seriously.
Other favoured methods of disposal include throwing unwanted dogs down wells, knocking them on the head, or dumping them on motorways. Lucky ones like Tosca and Snowy get dumped at rubbish bins or on quieter country roads. Rescuers estimate 100,000–150,000 podencos and galgos are killed annually.
Polly Mathewson, of the Podenco Alliance, says:
‘Of these the podencos — the huge-eared noble, athletic, loving clowns of the hound world are the most numerous, most invisible and the most unknown outside of Spain.’
The countless abandoned ones may be taken in by shelters: emaciated dogs, injured dogs, frightened, and disturbed dogs. Some have been chained up so they can’t even sit or lie down. Fed on stale bread and water. The previous owner of our house (Irish) fed her two foals on stale bread. They died.
Some in the shelters still don’t make it.
Here is the story of one that did.
He was found in Spain by British expatriates, helped by a British refuge in Spain and adopted by an American to the US. His story was sent for the 1st of May International Day of the Podenco protest by Sabine Ludowigs of the German-US led Facebook site “The Million Paw March for Justice”, that has 20,500 members. People across the world are calling for an end to the suffering of the Spanish hunting dogs.
‘A Podenco was discovered emaciated, dehydrated, lying on a sandy beach, presumed to be dead. He had clearly lost the will to live. Linda Edwards discovered him and the more dead than alive dog was brought to Podenco Friends with Beverley and Warren Farmer. It was discovered that his front right leg had been caught in a trap and broken – probably the reason why he had been thrown out and abandoned by his previous owner who had no further use for an injured dog and who would certainly not waste money on medical treatment. God knows, there is an endless supply of other dogs as they are bred uncontrolled and unaccounted for by the thousands every year. The bone had already fused and could not be repaired. The dog received all the love and care he so badly needed and after the incredibly short period of six weeks of rehabilitation, made the trip to the US to be welcomed with open arms into his forever home with Kristi Eaves and is now the dog he was meant to be. His name is “The RedBaron’.
Podencos are being homed all over Europe, Canada and the USA as international awareness grows about them. But they are a tiny number in the scheme of things.
The campaign calls for education, an end to overbreeding and cruel training techniques, and effective enforcement of existing legislation.
Truth is, in Andalucía, which is big podenco territory, all dogs should be chipped, jabbed, and registered with the Junta de Andalucía. And which animal abuser is going to spend money going to the vet to do that? €110 for Tosca’s jabs and chip, plus €140 for spaying. And why register a dog you are only going to keep for one or two seasons? That’s part of the problem. Registration is a total disincentive to the mentality of the hunting population.
In the meantime, individuals, groups, rescuers, shelters, fosterers and rehomers do what they can.
Thanks to everyone who plays a part in rehoming any animal. Please don’t buy from a breeder when there are so many unwanted and abused animals out there. Chipping will help identify your animal if it gets lost, although unscrupulous people will rip it out. And, if you home a bitch, do what we did, and take her to be spayed muy pronto. If you can’t home an animal, please ask a local shelter what they need – money, food, bedding, whatever. They probably always need money.
Don’t do what a (former) friend of mine did and give money to a rescue to salve your conscience then run out and buy a ‘perfect’ dog from a breeder. It really isn’t necessary.
After two months with us, Tosca has settled in perfectly. She is obedient, affectionate, full of fun, a great guard dog, and enjoys playing with Snowy. These wonderful dogs don’t deserve their Spanish fate.